Lessons learned from Digg
© Anthony Lawrence, aplawrence.com
As Diggs go, it wasn't much: five hundred digg points and a hundred or so comments. However, in one day it brought over 10,000 visitors to one article: Death of the command line. As this site typically gets less than 7,000 visitors a day spread over thousands of articles, that's a big visitation.
An unfortunately large number of readers didn't have a clue what the article was about. Too many people thought I was bemoaning having to use the command line. Actually the point was entirely opposite that, but it wasn't spelled out in big block letters. That's the first lesson of Digg: subtlety is lost on a large percentage of readers.
No, I'm not saying Digg readers are dumb. I'm saying that many of them are hasty. no doubt they are trying to be good Diggers and read a lot of posts, but wow: things can get off base very quickly.
For example, the very first comment said "That's because you're using a noob distro like ubuntu". In fact, the article referenced a Suse install, but more importantly, that comment set a theme or an expectation. That's the second thing I learned about Digg: what people think in comments can shape what other people think when they read your post. If that first comment was the result of hasty reading or misunderstanding, that error may infect other readers. Not all, of course. But accuracy can get lost in noise.
There's an opposite side to that too: hasty readers don't read other people's comments closely either, so you get repetition of ideas in comments. In this case, "Automator" was mentioned several times. The original post said:
"In fact, some graphical programming environments work just like that: you drag around little tools and create bigger tools without suffering the indignities of that awful command line"
But that didn't stop comments like:
This idea already exists. On a Mac there is a piece of built in software called Automator.
Apple is way ahead of you with AppleScript and Automator.
It sounds like he wants Apple's Automator program.
Isn't what he's talking about the OS X Automator?
These show both a lack of careful reading of the original article and of course a complete disregard for other folks comments.
As I implied above, I could have been more direct in the article. Perhaps I could have avoided comments like:
Lameo, just coz some guy forgot some commands - "the command line is dead"
Just because the author is clearly a point-click user, that does not make his point valid
I'm far from a "point and click user", but I never said that. I never said that what was bothering me is`a trend by developers to ignore command line tools in favor of GUI versions. So some of the misinterpretation is my fault.
I doubt that this article will be Dugg, but if it were, I wonder how many readers would think I am casting doubt on their intelligence. I'm not. I do think Diggers could read a little more slowly and take note of other folks comments before adding effective duplicates, but that's just the way it is.
The question is, what to do about it? I do think I have to be more explicit, but on the other hand, pedantic writing can be pretty boring. As an intelligent reader, I don't like to be beat about the head by an author who wants to be certain I catch his meaning. Maybe there isn't a perfect answer for this: no matter what the level of writing, there will be problems for some readers.
I did make a small postscript to the original article today. It's too late, of course, but some stragglers are still coming in, so perhaps it can help.
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Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal, Second Edition
Take Control of Launchbar
Take Control of iCloud
Yosemite Crash Course
Take Control of Upgrading to Mavericks